The Films of Douglas SirkExquisite Ironies and Magnificent Obsessions

The Films of Douglas SirkExquisite Ironies and Magnificent Obsessions

Tom Ryan

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9781496817983

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi

Abstract

Working in Europe during the 1930s, mainly for Germany’s UFA studios, and then in America in the 1940s and ’50s, Douglas Sirk brought to all his work a distinctive style that has led to his reputation as one of the 20th century cinema’s great ironists. He did things his own way: for him, rules were there to be broken, whether they were the decrees of Nazi authorities trying to turn film into propaganda or of studios insisting that characters’ problems should always be solved and that endings should always restore order, providing what Sirk used to call “emergency exits” for audiences. This study of Sirk is the first comprehensive critical overview of the filmmaker’s entire career, examining the ’50s melodramas for which he has been rightly acclaimed – films such as All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind, The Tarnished Angels and Imitation of Life – and instructively looking beyond them at his earlier work, which includes musicals, comedies, thrillers, war movies and westerns. Offering fresh insights into all of these films and situating them in the culture of their times, the book also incorporates extensive interview material drawn from a variety of sources, including the author’s own conversations with the director. Furthermore, it undertakes a detailed reconsideration of the generally overlooked novels and plays that served as sources for Sirk’s films, as well as providing a critical overview of previous Sirk commentary, from the time of the director’s “rediscovery” in the late 1960s to the present day.